2011: Live Again!
2010: A Lean Year
2009: 50th Anniversary
2008: The Literary Ventures
2007: Inspirational Hits
2006: Your Hit Parade 2
2005: Summer Wind Live
2004: 45th Anniversary
2003: More Instrumental Hits
2002: Hyper V-Gold
2001: A Ventures Odyssey
2000: The New Millenium
1999: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary
1998: Maybe a Lean Year?
1997: What a Wonderful Year!
1996 Original Releases
Two-on-One LP Reissues
In Concert Videos
2012: Memories of Japan
2012 was another lean year in terms of the release of new recordings by The Ventures. The year began with a "best of live" collection from EMI Music Japan called The Ventures Live Best: Slaughter on 10th Avenue. That was followed during the year by Play Japanese Melody from Pony Canyon, The Ventures Love Japan from M&I Records, Pops in Japan from EMI Music Japan, and Memories of Japan also from EMI Music Japan. These were all collections of popular Japanese pops tracks previously recorded by The Ventures. Only the last collection, Memories of Japan, included new tracks, those being "Sapporo Spring," "Echoes of Sendai," "Hakata Sun," and "Japan Surf." In the U.S., Sundazed Records began reissuing some of the more popular original Ventures albums on colored vinyl, with 9 released in 2012 with 5 more scheduled for release in early 2013. These LP reissues were greeted with great enthusiasm by Ventures fans because of their high sound quality and, of course, the nostalgia factor of holding a freshly-minted Ventures album in its original format. On the solo album front, 2012 saw the release of Nokie Rocks The Ventures, a collection of Ventures classics played in Nokie Edwards' unmistakable style plus several Nokie favorites. Gerry McGee and Japan's Dr. K teamed up for a live concert tour during the year and the songs from that tour were released on the CD Let's Swamp Tour Live in Japan. Last but certainly not least, Bob Spalding also issued a solo album called Transitions, on which his son Ian Spalding also participated.
2011: Live Again!
The summer of 2011 saw the release of two excellent CD collections from Japan. First, in May, M&I Records (Pony Canyon) released the 2-CD collection In Japan Live 2010. This 28-track collection features Gerry McGee and Bob Spalding switching off on lead and bass guitar duties, with Don Wilson on rhythm guitar and Leon Taylor on drums. The entire concert (minus inter-song commentary) was recorded in Tokyo on September 11, 2010. This is an outstanding live set by The Ventures! Then, in July, EMI Music Japan released the Bob Bogle Memorial Album, a touching tribute to Ventures co-founder Bob Bogle, who died in 2009. The 21 tracks present a nice cross-section of lead guitar work by Bob, running from 1960's "Walk Don't Run" to the previously unreleased "Theme from The Magnificent Seven," which Bob recorded shortly before his death. The CD booklet contains heartfelt tributes to Bob, both in English and Japanese. This collection is also highly recommended.
2010: A Lean Year
Although The Ventures continued to be very active in the concert arena, making their annual January and summer tours in Japan and also making a number of concert appearances in the United States and Canada, there were really only two new albums of note from the band in 2010. First was In My Life from EMI Music Japan, which is a fine compilation of new and old recordings of 15 Beatles songs. In addition to seven tracks that were previously released during the 1960s and '70s, the CD includes seven newly-recorded tracks, including "Back in the USSR," "Here Comes the Sun," the "Golden Slumbers/Carry the Weight/The End" medley from the Beatles' Abbey Road album, and the CD title track "In My Life." Also included is John Lennon's "Imagine" which was previously released on an earlier Japanese CD. The second CD issued by The Ventures in 2010 was Hawaii Five-0 on the VenturesX label. This is a compilation of previously released tracks that have a Hawaiian theme. One new track on this CD is "Crouching Lion," a new song written by Bob Spalding and Don Wilson.
2009: 50th Anniversary
The 50th Anniversary of The Ventures was in full swing in 2009, as the band celebrated their official formation and their first recording, the 45-single "Cookies and Coke b/w The Real McCoy." Early in the year, The Ventures got together with fellow Washington State musicians The Fabulous Wailers to record a joint CD collection called Two Car Garage, which contained new versions of some of the greatest hits of both bands. Later on, a whole slew of CDs were released in Japan. These included the 50th Anniversary collection of greatest hits from M&I Records along with a 50th Anniversary Live set recorded at a January 2009 concert in Japan. The masters from this live collection were also used by M&I Records to produce two Karaoke-style CDs called Play With The Ventures (volumes 1 and 2) that each included 5 live tracks with different guitar parts (lead, rhythm, and bass) missing. Not to be outdone, EMI Japan (formerly Toshiba EMI) issued four CD collections that included: Play Kayama Yuzo, a collection of brand new recordings of popular Japanese songs written by Kayama Yuzo; Play Southern All Stars, a collection of previously-released recordings of songs made popular by the Japanese singing group Southern All Stars; Popular Hits Album, a collection of four 2008 recordings that were previously only available in Japan by download and additional tracks from several 1990s CDs including the popular "Wild Again" duo; and a Japanese reissue of the U.S. Two Car Garage collaboration with The Fabulous Wailers. A nice surf rock collection, called Surfin' Guitar, came from VentureX Music in the U.S. to close out the year. This compilation includes 20 popular surf anthems taken from the Japanese CDs in the "Wild Again" and "V-Gold" series. Unfortunately, a CD/DVD boxed set to be produced in cooperation with Fender Guitars never materialized. Fingers are crossed that it shows up in 2010, the 50th Anniversary of "Walk Don't Run."
2008: The Literary Ventures
For fans of The Ventures around the world, 2008 was a landmark year because our favorite instrumental band was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 2008 also represented the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, which led to the formation of The Ventures the following year. Unfortunately, these celebratory events were not matched by the recording output for the year. Aside from a slew of "greatest hits" compilations and the availability in Japan only of four new tracks for digital download purchase, there has been no new output by The Ventures this year. Among the compilations made available to fans in 2008 were: The Very Best of The Venturezs from EMI in the U.K. (original 1960s studio recordings), V-Generation (2000s studio recordings) and Live! Live!! Live!!! (2000s live recordings) both from M&I Records in Japan, Kettei Ban! (details unavailable) also from Japan, and The Ventures Play Their Greatest Hits (2000s recordings) from Varese Sarabande in the U.S.A. However, to compensate for this shortfall of new recorded material, there were two books about The Ventures published in 2008. Without fear of contradiction, I believe that every Ventures fan should have a copy of these two publications in their library. First, long-time Ventures fan Del Halterman collaborated with Josie Wilson (Don Wilson's dear departed mother) to present the definitive biography of The Ventures. Walk Don't Run: The Story of The Ventures is an 8.5 x 11 inch, 387-page masterpiece that presents, year by year, the complete history of the band and the people associated with the band. The book contains hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photos and tons of behind-the-scene stories about the people and the music. This book is available from www.lulu.com, item number 725111. The second book comes from Malcolm Campbell and David Burke, Ventures fans in the U.K., and is titled Driving Guitars: The Music of The Ventures in the Sixties. This 4.5 x 6.5 inch, 432-page work is the definitive reference book to the music recorded by The Ventures during the 1960s. Beginning with "Walk Don't Run" and running through every recording produced during the decade, the book provides concise background of the origin of each song and narrative critique of the version presented by The Ventures. At the end of each annual chapter, David Burke provides interesting information on the session players and other support musicians who participated in the recordings. This book is available from www.malcolmcampbell.me.uk or www.leosden.co.uk, ISBN number 978-0-9535567-5-5. Hopefully, sales of this first volume will inspire its authors to produce similar publications on The Ventures' music of the '70s, '80s, '90s, and 2000s.
2007: Inspirational Hits
In an unexpected turn of events, The Ventures' original Japanese record company (Toshiba-EMI, now EMI Music Japan) released this year's studio album of all-new recordings. Originally planned to be called "Inspirational Hits," the new CD was issued with the title Rocky!, which is the first track. The album consists mostly of inspirational and gospel hits that are widely known -- such songs as "What the World Needs Now," "Oh Happy Day," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "I Believe," and "The Impossible Dream," among others. But my favorite is a rocking, instrumental rendition of "Eye of the Tiger." Overall, this is defnitely a "must-have" collection for the Ventures fan. For it's part, M&I Records released another in a long line of live albums, entitled Live in Tokyo 2006. Taken from the Ventures' 2006 summer tour of Japan, this concert recording is the first to include Bob Spalding on bass (and occasional lead) guitar, substituting for founding member Bob Bogle, who no longer tours with the band (although he still performs on studios recordings). Although all of the Ventures standards are here, most expertly played by lead guitarist Gerry McGee, there are an enjoyable number of rarely-heard live tracks, such as "Gimme Some Lovin'," "Hide Away," "Wham," "Last Date," and "Wild and Wooly." This is another "must-have" collection. In addition, no less than three greatest hits collections were released in Japan. These include Go with The Ventures by Toshiba-EMI (with a bonus DVD containing clips from past Ventures video releases), Ventures Forever also by Toshiba-EMI, and Electric Ventures by M&I Records. Because all of the tracks on these CDs are previously released, these collections are only for the diehard collector. One final release this year (under the EMI Music Japan label) is called Play The Ventures and is, in actuality, the first-time availability on CD of the Eastworld vinyl album from the 1980s called Original Four. The new CD is rounded out by bonus tracks from another 1980s vinyl album called 60s Pops. If you don't already have the two 1980s albums, this CD is another candidate for your collection. Overall, this has been a pretty rewarding summer for The Ventures's fans around the world. Now, if only Rocky! would be made available domestically for the U.S. market, the inspirational hits might catch on with many in the "bible belt," brining The Ventures' some much-deserved home country recognition.
2006: Your Hit Parade 2
As has become the custom in recent years, The Ventures' Japanese record companies issued new collections in June 2006. These included a collaborative 4-disc collection of greatest hits that imitates the well-known Beatles "Red" and "Blue" albums of the 1970s. Toshiba-EMI issued a 2-disc Red Disc - 1960-1970 set with 50 vintage Ventures classics and M&I Records issued a 2-disc Blue Disc - 1999-2006 set with 50 more-recent Ventures classics. If you're a compulsive completist like me, you'll want to get these two collections. My only real complaint about them is that classic Ventures tracks from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s have been overlooked. Here's hoping those will be part of a 50th Anniversary retrospective boxed set in 2010! Additionally, Toshiba-EMI issued a collection of the best ballads played by The Ventures on a single disc called Sentimental Guitars, and these are all winners. Lastly and most importantly, M&I Records released a 1-disc collection of brand new recordings called Your Hit Parade II: Featuring Screen Themes. As the name implies, these are songs taken from movie soundtracks. The versions produced here by The Ventures are somewhat mellow by Ventures standards, but this is still a nice collection. On the video front, Toshiba-EMI also released a DVD version of the popular 30th Anniversary Super Session video that includes well-known guitarists and other musicians from popular 1980s bands playing along with The Ventures and giving their comments on how The Ventures' music inspired and/or influenced them. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame really needs to sit down and take a good look at this video!
2005: Summer Wind Live
The Ventures seem to just keep going, and going, and going -- much like the Energizer Bunny! In that light, 2005 saw a wealth of new Ventures releases, including new material and interesting compiliations of older, live material. For the U.S. market, Varese Sarabande issued Alive Five-0: Greatest Hits Live, which is a compiliation of the best live tracks by the Ventures from 1990 to 2004. If you want one CD collection with the best of the Ventures' live recordings, this is it -- and at a very nice domestic price. From Japan, M&I Records issued J-Rock Summer Wind, a collection of all new material based on some of the most popular hit songs in Japan today. It may take a little while before you warm up to these unfamiliar melodies; but I highly recommend this CD. It will definitely grow on you and become a new favorite. Also from M&I is Live Best Hits a compilation of live tracks previously released by M&I from 1999 to 2002. Not to be outdone, the Ventures' old Japanese label, Toshiba-EMI issued Double Deluxe, a combined CD/DVD set consisting of a compilation of live tracks previously released from 1965 to 1997. The companion DVD is an excellent introduction to the Ventures' concert videos, again with sample tracks from 1965 to 1997. Toshiba-EMI also released a DVD version of the Live 1990 concert video that was previously available on VHS. 2005 ended with M&I issuing a 5-CD boxed set called Best Selection Box. This is a collection of studio (3 CDs) and live (2 CDs) tracks previously released by M&I. The only thing new is a live version of "House of the Rising Sun" recorded in January 2001. If your funds are limited, I highly recommend the Alive Five-0 and J-Rock Summer Wind CDs and the Live 1990 DVD. Not to be left out, the UK's Ace Records released a third disc in the acclaimed In the Vaults series, which includes many rare tracks, including the very first songs recorded by The Ventures (pre-Walk Don't Run). This one is a must-have for any Ventures fan!
2004: 45th Anniversary
2004 was The Ventures' 45th anniversary and, by June of that year, a stack of new releases were on hand. First, Varese Sarabande issued Surfin' to Baja, which was a mass market version of an in-house collection that The Ventures had released in 2003 on the occasion of their fan cruise down to Baja, Mexico. All of the tracks on this CD were original compositions or arrangements by The Ventures that had been recorded since 1995. In June, the Japanese M&I and Toshiba-EMI labels issued both CDs and DVDs. From M&I, we got yet another V-Gold compilation called V-Gold Blend: The Very Best of the Ventures; Classic Country Plus consisting of vocal tracks by Don Wilson; Summer & Winter Live containing selections from their summer 2003 concert tour with Gerry McGee on lead and their winter 2003-2004 tour with Nokie Edwards on lead; and the DVD 45th Anniversary Concert, which was also taken from the winter 2003-2004 tour featuring Nokie. Toshiba-EMI was not to be left out, with a DVD release of their own -- Beloved Invaders, the classic black and white film recorded in Japan during the heydey of the Ventures' popularity during the 1960s and previously available only on VHS and large-format Video Disc. Toshiba-EMI also continued with their long-term series of CD reissues of the classic '60s Dolton/Liberty albums.
2003: More Instrumental Hits
The Ventures' album output was somewhat meager in 2003 as compared to the previous year. From Varese Sarabande, there was another collection of tracks from the V-Gold recording sessions, this one called Play Greatest Instrumental Hits of All Time, Volume 2. Out of Japan, M&I issued two new collections. Your Hit Parade 60's was a collection of songs (most not previously recorded by The Ventures) that had been radio hits in Japan. Among theses were "Where the Boys Are," "In the Year 2525," and a full-length version of "Land of 1,000 Dances." The second M&I release of the year was another in concert collection called In Japan Live 2003.
2002: Hyper V-Gold
In May 2002, M&I released four Ventures-related CDs. First up was Surf Rock Anthology, which was really just a compiliation of surf-type tracks that were previously released in the V-Gold collection. It's not a bad set, but if you already have the V-Gold CDs or the U.S. CD Play the Greatest Surfin' Hits of All Time, you won't find much new here. Next up was the fourth V-Gold collection of updated classic Ventures tracks. This CD was called Hyper V-Gold instead of "V-Gold IV" for some reason and the cover is silver -- rather than gold -- colored. Despite this oddity, it's a great addition to the V-Gold series and also includes two new Ventures originals: "Open for Business" and "Island Moon." The other two M&I releases in 2002 are actually solo discs by Mel Taylor and Gerry McGee. The Best of Mel Taylor is a collection of selected tracks from four albums that were originally released by King records during the 1970s. It's a great compilation of some of Mel's solo work. My Guitar Memories is a set of new recordings by Gerry McGee of songs that were influential in his early career before joining the Ventures. Both of these solo albums are "must haves" for any Ventures fan's collection. In October, Varese Sarabande released two more CDs for the U.S. market. If you don't already have the V-Gold series, the first new release -- The Ventures Play the Greatest Instrumental Hits of All Time -- is a fine companion to last year's Greatest Surfin' Hits collection. As the CD title says, it contains The Ventures' versions of some of the most popular rock 'n' roll instrumental hits. The second CD is Christmas Joy, an all-new collection of Christmas songs and hymns -- such as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and "O Holy Night." This is a new and interesting direction for The Ventures, and it works extremely well. The year ended with a December release from M&I Records in Japan in the form of Live in Seattle, USA, a compilation of selections from two concerts The Ventures performed recently at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle. This is another in a long line of lively live recordings, this time with Nokie Edwards as the main lead guitarist.
2001: A Ventures Odyssey
At least three all-new recordings on the M&I label were promised for 2001, and in May the first two were released. Play Southern All Stars - Tsunami is a collection of Ventures versions of 12 songs made famous by the Japanese singing group The Southern All Stars. This disc can be considered a followup to the early 1990s release on Toshiba-EMI called Play Southern All Stars, but the songs on the new album are much more melodic than the earlier collection. V-Gold III was also released in May, and contains 18 new recordings of classic Ventures tracks and 2 brand new Ventures originals, "Bimini Bay" and "My Love for You." In November fans welcomed the promised release of a new Christmas album from M&I. Titled 60's Rockin' Christmas, it includes updated versions of 11 of the 12 tracks from the original Christmas Album (the missing one being "Scrooge") plus "Winter Wonderland," "Feliz Navidad," and "The Christmas Song." Also released in 2001 was The Ventures Play Greatest Surfin' Hits of All Time. This collection, on the U.S. label Varese Sarabande, is a compilation of surf tracks from some of The Ventures' recent Japanese CDs, including the V-Gold series. If those Japanese CDs are too expensive for your wallet or you want a wonderful collection of just surf tracks, I highly recommend this one. The U.S. cost is under $15. Rumored U.K. releases Ultimate Collection 2 and In the Vaults 3 didn't materialize in 2001 -- maybe next year.
2000: The New Millenium
With the dawning of the new millenium, The Ventures weren't left out of the celebration. Their old Japanese record label (Toshiba-EMI) continued to release CDs in its series of mono and stereo versions of the same albums on a single disc. As with the ones issued in 1999, these would probably be of interest only to the ultimate "completists" among The Ventures' fans. Toshiba-EMI did also release a compilation CD called The Very Best of The Ventures: Kayama Yuzo Selection. The tracks on this disc were selected by well-known Japanese actor/musician Yuzo Kayama. Although a bit expensive because it's an import disc, this collection of 30 tracks is a nice one for any Ventures fan.
For their new Japanese record label (M&I), The Ventures recorded three new albums. First up was V-Gold II, another collection of 20 Ventures classics redone with today's technology. It's a great followup to the 1999 release in the V-Gold series. Next was a bold undertaking for The Ventures that turned out fantastically: Acoustic Rock, which features Don, Bob, Gerry, Leon, with special guest Nokie and friend Jeff Baxter all playing acoustic instruments. The 18 tracks on this CD are bright and lively renditions of some classic rock tunes that had never been covered before by The Ventures. Then, late in the year, came the 2-CD album The Ventures in Japan - Live 2000. The 29 tracks on this live recording are fabulous. Of course, most of the "standards" are here, but the mix of tracks includes some new tunes from Acoustic Rock and some classics that The Ventures don't play very often in concert.
From across the other ocean, See for Miles in the U.K. released a fantastic 2-CD collection of older and out-of-print material called The Ultimate Collection. The packaging alone on this collection is worth the admission price. A 40-page booklet insert with many rare photographs and a detailed history of the band by U.K. Fan Club president Gerry Woodage complete the set. On the musical side, the long out-of-print recording Last Album on Liberty is presented in this set along with many other rare tracks and alternate takes. This is another "must have" for the true Ventures fan!
Lastly, there were two U.S. releases in 2000, one official and one of questionable legitimacy. First, The Ventures entered into a deal with Pat Boone's Gold Label to produce a series of albums. The first was Gold, basically a U.S. reissue of 1999's Japanese recording V-Gold, but with several new tracks that weren't on the Japanese disc. Even is you already have V-Gold in your collection, this Gold album shouldn't be overlooked because of these bonus tracks. The second U.S. release of 2000 is called Hawaii Five-0: Remixed Hits & More. Basically, the producer took versions of "Hawaii Five-0" and "Walk Don't Run" from the now-famous "Red Dog" European bootleg albums and remixed them into techno-dance tracks. Most Ventures fans will find this disc to be a desecration of The Ventures' two biggest hits, but they might appeal to younger fans who like the techno-dance style of music.
1999: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary
Forty years ago, in 1959, Bob Bogle and Don Wilson, with the help of Don's mother Josie, recorded their first 45 RPM single, which contained two guitar-backed vocal songs: Cookies and Coke and The Real McCoy. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, all kinds of great things are being produced this year (1999). Let's take a look at what's out there.
First, U.K.'s See for Miles Records has completed its reissue project on the original U.S. Dolton/Liberty/United Artists albums, and in 1999, continued to release 2-on-1 CDs with rare Japanese albums. These collections include the live In Japan/In Japan Volume 2 set, plus two sets of Japanese pops albums: Pop in Japan/Pops in Japan No. 2, and Golden Pops/Pops in Japan '71. Hopefully, SFM will be able to obtain the rights to continue to reissuing the large catalog of Japanese albums that have seen very little, if any, distribution in the U.S. and elsewhere outside of Japan.
Next, Toshiba-EMI released its own set of 2-on-1 CDs, but with a twist. Toshiba's reissues will include the mono and stereo versions of some of the Ventures' most popular U.S. albums, including Walk, Don't Run, The Colorful Ventures, Walk, Don't Run, Volume 2, and Knock Me Out plus regular 2-on-1 pairings such as In Japan/In Japan Volume 2, Pops in Japan/Pops in Japan No. 2, Best of/Best of Volume 2, and Telstar/Play Country Classics. Toshiba-EMI also released a special 40th anniversary collection called Ultimate Collection, which includes 31 "greatest hits" tracks, and Ventures Forever, which is a reissue of a 2-LP "greatest hits" collection from the 1970s. My personal opinion is that, given the See for Miles and One Way Records reissue projects, these Toshiba-EMI releases are really only for the completist among Ventures fans.
Best of all, the Ventures' new Japanese record company, M&I Records, released a collection of new and rare material. V-Gold (MYCV-30001 - 1999) is a collection of re-recorded Ventures classics. Of special interest is that these new recordings feature Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, and Gerry McGee on lead guitar for the songs that each one originally recorded. The up-to-date recording technology really gives a lift to these classic Ventures tracks that range from the original Walk, Don't Run to some of the Ventures' most popular Japanese pops. Walk, Don't Run 2000 (MYCV-30002 - 1999) is an all-new album that features a rousing "ska" version of Walk, Don't Run, 6 new Ventures original compositions, and 10 great covers of hits from the 1960s/1970s. One of these, the Paul Revere and the Raiders' hit Kicks, features Nancy Sinatra on vocals. Play Runaway (MYCV-30005 - 1999) is a collection of 16 of Don Wilson's favorite vocal recordings, among them his classic version of Runaway. Space 2001 (MYCV-30006 - 1999) is a reissue of the 1983 NASA Commemorative Album, which features "Meco-style" dance versions of various space-themed songs, including Telstar and Journey to the Stars. Next was Kayo Taizen ("Cool Melody" in English) (MYCV-30007 - 1999), which is a rare collection of hit Japanese vocal versions of Japanese pop songs written by the Ventures. Then M&I issued Swingin' Creepers (MYCV-30008 - 1999), a tribute album featuring young American surf bands playing rousing versions of some of the Ventures best surf-inspired (and inspiring) tracks. And lastly, the year ended with the release of V-Gold Live! (MYCV-30028 - 1999), which is a live recording of a special January 1999 Japanese concert that featured Nokie Edwards playing lead with the Ventures. What a year! Bring on more of The Ventures in Y2K!
1998: Maybe a Lean Year?
1998 started out as a lean year as far as new Ventures releases were concerned, but things have brightened up considerably during the summer. First, Toshiba-EMI finally released the long-awaited CD and video of the Ventures' 1997 concert in Tokyo. Called Wild Again Concert '97, both the CD and video have great line-ups featuring Leon Taylor in his first live recordings. I was a bit disappointed, however, that the CD excluded several live versions of songs from the Wild Again and Wild Again II studio CDs that were included in the video. But overall, both are great additions to any Ventures fan's collection.
Also, both One Way Records and See for Miles continued with their 2-on-1 reissues. One Way has basically completed their reissue program with six more CDs, those being Joy/Latin Album, 10th Anniversary Album (2-LP set), The Horse/New Testament, Shaft/Rocky Road, Only Hits (2-LP set), and Jim Croce Songbook/Play the Carpenters. Of special interest were the 10th Anniversary and Only Hits double albums collections and Rocky Road, none of which were previously available on CD. The other reissued albums had previously been issued on CD by See for Miles.
Issued during the early Fall of 1998 from See for Miles were EP Collection, Volume 3, featuring the Japanese EPs, and On Stage Encore/Live Again, a duo of out-of-print Japanese live recordings from 1966 and 1967, respectively. Other See for Miles releases this year included Rock and Roll Forever/Rocky Road, 10th Anniversary, and Only Hits, all of which had already been released by One Way Records.
Lastly, GNP Crescendo also released New Depths, its U.S. version of last year's Japan-issued Wild Again II, with the addition of instrumental versions of two songs the Ventures recently composed and produced for a Japanese girl singing group called "V.I.P." and a 1988 heavy metal version of Wipe Out that really rocks and is something quite unusual for the Ventures.
Meanwhile, during the early Spring, a little gem of a package arrived from the U.K. in the form of Stars on Guitars (1998 Snapper Music SMDCD178). Here's my initial reaction: First, the cover art is remarkable in its UNattractiveness -- consisting of a sky blue band across the top with "... Visual Sound STEREO" in black lettering, with two panels below. On the left is a yellow-tinted B/W picture of a bass drum with "THE VENTURES" in black lettering and "Star on Guitars" below the drum in white lettering. On the right is a yellow panel with a line drawing of a Fender guitar. Not attractive at all! But, the old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" applies here perfectly. Don't be put off by the ugly cover. What's inside is a real gem, especially at less than $15!
The inside of the insert booklet is a bit more attractively laid out and includes four pages of excellent liner notes by someone named Bonan Roge. I think he does the Ventures justice in his comments and even makes a mention and gives the URL for the official Ventures web site. The music is even better -- 2 solid hours of late-80s to early-90s Japanese tracks:
I think this is an excellent collection and, unless you already have all of the CDs from which these tracks were pulled, it should defintely be a "must buy" on any Ventures fan's list. Again, at less than $15 it can't be beat!
1997: What a Wonderful Year!
1997 has been a wonderful year for Ventures fans everywhere! More new CDs have been released during this year than at almost any time in this great band's entire almost-40 year career. Below is a quick rundown of what you should be on the lookout for either at your local music store or at the online sources listed in the Ventures Resources page.
I've been very fortunate to have been able to obtain most of the new Ventures CDs released during 1997 -- it's almost like the '60s all over again!!! Here are some of the highlights. The See for Miles and One Way 2-on-1 CDs continued the popular reissues of the Ventures' original U.S. vinyl albums, and you shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to convert that priceless LP collection to CDs. Special standouts were the reissues of the legendary Play Guitar with the Ventures instructional albums. The reissues by the U.K.'s See for Miles include two 2-on-1 CDs with Volumes 1 and 2 and Volumes 3 and 4, respectively. (Volumes 5 and 6 featured guitar artists other than the Ventures, and Volume 7 is expected to be issued by See for Miles in 1998). See for Miles has reproduced the diagram booklets that came with the original LPs in a small format book, which can be purchased directly from See for Miles for about $15 U.S. The "Play Guitar" reissues by the U.S.'s One Way Records gives you all 5 instructional albums in a single 3-CD set, but no provision for obtaining the diagram booklets. The choice, I guess is yours. If you really need or want the diagram booklets, the slighty more expensive See for Miles CDs are probably worth the extra cost.
The two new U.K. CDs are very low cost compilations, which are more valuable than their inexpensive price (around $10 US) would lead you to believe. In the Vaults has 26 tracks consisting of alternate versions of some Ventures classics and other songs that either were never before available on CD or were available only in Japan. Here you'll find a 1959 version of The McCoy, plus Candy Apple Racer, Peace Pipe, and Endless Summer to name just a few. Play Screen Themes contains 16 tracks based on movie and TV hits. But these are tracks that were previously available only in Japan. The Ventures play nice versions of Chariots of Fire, Never Ending Story, Miami Vice, St. Elmo's Fire, and What a Wonderful World, a trademark Louie Armstrong tune that I just love.
In the U.S., you can get wild again with the Ventures! The GNP Crescendo version of last year's hit CD from Japan is now available in the U.S. at an affordable price and with a few bonus goodies. The U.S. version of Wild Again includes all but 2 of the tracks of the Japanese release (the two weakest numbers) and adds live versions of Wipe Out and Caravan, two versions of the Japanese Surf on Guitar '96 medley, and a nice interview with Bob Bogle and Don Wilson. Also new in the U.S. is a budget-priced 3-CD set from CSC Music (under license from Capitol) called 36 All-Time Greatest Hits. This collection doesn't have anything new for the fan who already has most of the See for Miles or One Way Records 2-on-1 reissues. But if you're looking for an inexpensive collection of the Ventures' best loved tunes, you can't go wrong with this 3-CD set.
From Japan, you can get wild again yet again, with the all-new release, Wild Again II. (Once you see the cover art for Wild Again II, you'll know you've got something really "hot" in your hands!) Wild Again II is almost a 1990's counterpart to the 1960's classic Surfing. Here you'll find pounding guitars and drums on such surf hits as Hurricane, Drums A GoGo, Bombora, Banzai Pipeline, and Spanish Armada Guest musicians include Duane Eddy, Jeff Baxter, Bruce Gary, Bob Spalding, and Larry Taylor. Also, this is the first Ventures CD to feature Leon Taylor, Mel's son. Leon does his father proud throughout the set! Then, if you're a fan of Mel Taylor's legendary drumming style, you've got to get yourself a copy of the Mel Taylor Memorial Album, also from Japan. The tracks on this CD were selected personally by Fiona Taylor (Mel's widow), Don Wilson, and Bob Bogle to highlight Mel's incredible career with the Ventures. From 1965 live versions of Wipe Out and Caravan to a 1993 live version of Hawaii Five-0, this collection is a drummer's delight and a fitting tribute to our favorite Ventures drummer! And finally, there's one more of the seemingly perennial "best of" compilations from Japan, this one being The Best Surfin' Hits from Teichiku. It includes live, Tridex-era, and Nokie Edwards solo versions of 18 of the Ventures' classics.
1996 Original Releases
The Ventures' 1996 album of new material, the Japanese CD Wild Again: The Ventures Play Heavy Hitters (1996 Toshiba-EMI TOCP-8911), is a masterpiece. It has a range of musical types and vibrant guitar sound that makes it, in my opinion, one of the Ventures' best efforts ever! Here you'll find the Ventures' versions of such classic instrumental rock and roll hits as Teen Beat, Bongo Rock, Baja, Wham, and Happy Organ. For those among you who aren't too keen on classical music, I challenge you to listen to the Ventures' own versions of Beethoven's 5th Symphony (Beethoven Five-Oh!) and the William Tell Overture (Quicksilver) without tapping your toes to the beat. There are great versions of such universally recognized hits as Exodus, A Walk in the Black Forest, and Midnight in Moscow. The CD also includes some mellow tunes, like Quiet Village and Lonely Surfer. But, in my opinion, the real winner on this outstanding collection is The James Bond Theme. Without question, this is the most striking and exciting version I have ever heard. On all of the songs on this album, the lead guitar (shared by Bob Bogle and Gerry McGee) is crisp, vibrant, and rocking! Don Wilson's rhythm and Mel Taylor's drums are, of course, important parts of the Ventures' sound and they shine on this disc also. I guess the Ventures are like fine wine -- they just keep getting better with age. Unfortunately, this album also serves as a milestone of sorts, because it's the last produced before Mel Taylor's death in August 1996. Somehow, future Ventures albums just won't be quite the same because of his loss. I know the Japanese releases are hard to find and expensive by usual standards, but if you want to hear the Ventures at their latest and at their best, get this one.
In 1996, the Ventures also recorded a medley of 12 songs, which was released on a CD single called Surf on Guitars '96 (1996 Toshiba TODT-3746). The 3" CD contains three versions of the medley: an original "Let's Go" mix, a "rap DJ-style" mix by Ryomei Shirai, and a "karaoke" mix with the lead guitar missing. Each track is about 5 minutes in length. The original version of Surf on Guitar '96 is quite good (although I would have eliminated the "Let's Go" refrain after every third or fourth song). The rap-style mix will really have to grow on you. I guess if you're into that style of music you'll like it. My musical tastes are a bit more traditional, so I don't think I'll be playing this one too often. The karaoke mix should be popular with accomplished guitar players who can keep up with the Venture's rapid switches from one song to another. As a bonus, the back of the CD package has a great color photo of the Ventures (which you can see on my Ventures Band History page).
Two-on-One LP Reissues
The most undeniable evidence that the Ventures are enjoying a great resurgence in popularity is the fact that since 1992, an amazing 37 CDs have been released with reissues of most of the Ventures' original LPs. The first of these was the 2-on-1 CD The Ventures Play "Telstar" and "The Lonely Bull"/Ventures in Space (1992 EMI 802392). The cover of the CD booklet reproduces the original covers of both albums, while inside the booklet you'll find reproductions of the back of both album sleeves and current liner notes. This collection is especially meaningful to me because Play Telstar was the first Ventures LP I ever owned. The stereo reproduction of both albums is excellent.
Following the precedent set by EMI, in 1994 the U.K.'s See for Miles Records began releasing similar 2-on-1 CDs. Through mid-1999 SFM has released 28 such collections. Like the EMI CD, the booklets of the SFM discs reproduce the original album covers of the two LPs included in each collection, but go one step further by duplicating the album covers, at full booklet size, on the inside of the booklet. The earlier SFM releases also included the original liner notes, but more recent issues include very detailed and interesting liner notes by Gerald Woodage, the president of the Ventures Official International Fan Club. One oddity, for U.S. fans is that some of the LP covers on the SFM discs may not be familiar. That's because SFM uses the original U.K. album covers -- not unreasonable considering that the CDs are being produced and issued in the U.K. So far, SFM's 28 CDs have covered 46 of the Ventures' original U.S. LPs (including the instructional Play Guitar series) and 10 Japanese albums that are being made available outside Japan for the first time. Again, the sound reproduction is excellent. The SFM 2-on-1 line-up as of June 1999 included:
During 1996, One Way Records also began to issue CDs with 2 original U.S. albums on each. As of June 1999, 22 such collections had been issued, most duplicating albums also included on the SFM CDs, plus the entire Play Guitar in a 3-CD set. Again, the CD booklet covers reproduce the original albums covers (this time only U.S. covers), with booklet sized reproductions of the album covers and backs on the inside of the booklets. However, there are no current liner notes, and the small size of the back cover reproductions make the original liner notes virtually unreadable without a magnifying glass. Despite the simple packaging of the 1Way CDs, the sound reproduction is quite good (on my basic stereo system the quality is pretty much indistinguishable from the SFM CDs). Also, most of the 1Way CDs each include 3 bonus tracks. Some of these are real rarities, such as a 1977 disco version of Walk, Don't Run complete with disco-style background vocals, others are songs that are pretty much standard fare. The 1Way 2-on-1 line-up as of June 1999 included:
So, given that the 2-on-1 CDs being issued by See for Miles and One Way have a lot of duplication, which set is better? Strictly from a cost point of view, for Ventures fans in the U.S., the 1Way CDs are about $5 cheaper than the SFM imports. In addition, for that lower price you get three bonus tracks on each CD. However, the SFM collection has begun to include Japanese albums not previously available in the U.S. In addition, I've found that the SFM liner notes by Gerald Woodage are almost worth an extra few dollars. His insights into the Ventures and the production of the albums in each CD collection are priceless to the real avid fan. My recommendation: if you can afford it, get both sets of CDs. If not, compare the albums included in each collection, and pick and choose individual CDs carefully so that you don't miss any albums.
I recently obtained a copy of The Very Best of the Ventures (19?? Rainbow 2RCD-057/58), a 2-CD set from Australia. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this collection, although the title is completely misleading. This is not a "best of" collection. In fact, CD #1 is actually a reissue of the original U.S. LP Rock and Roll Forever (1971 United Artists UAS5649), which features rearrangements of such Ventures hits as Ram-Bunk-Shush and Raunchy. All of the tracks feature sax-intensive arrangements that (at least to my non-musician ears) are reminiscent of the very early blues-inspired days of rock and roll. Definitely not the usual Ventures sound, but still appealing. CD #2 is actually a reissue of the original U.S. LP Now Playing (1975 United Artists LA417-G), and features themes and other songs from major motion pictures. Among the tracks are songs, like Also Sprach Zarathustra, Theme from "Shaft", and The Pink Panther Theme, that have appeared in original U.S. LPs. Others, like The Man with the Golden Gun and Theme from "Lawrence of Arabia", were new to that LP. By the way, the booklet cover for this CD set shows the original Ventures, with Howie Johnson. Despite the wrong title and cover photo, I've enjoyed most of the tracks on this 2-CD set.
Although not a 2-on-1 release, another reissued Ventures LP that should be a part of every fan's collection is The Ventures' Christmas Album (1990 EMI 499427 and 1995 Razor & Tie 208529). I have the Razor & Tie CD, which has the original album cover on the CD booklet, but no new liner notes inside. The sound quality is quite good for this snappy collection of Christmas favorites, done in that unique Ventures style. The Ventures have skillfully blended the intros of some of their top hits (like Walk, Don't Run) into each of the Christmas tunes. If you've never heard this album before, it's a real treat for the Holidays.
A wide array of other Ventures collections have been released on CD during the past few years. Some, including the following, are basic "best of" collections.
The EMI Legendary Masters CD has 25 music tracks that cover the highlights of the Ventures' hit years, from Walk, Don't Run to Hawaii Five-0, plus four voice tracks that include an interview with the band and three radio promos for Ventures LPs. The EMI/UK The Ventures has 28 tracks that also cover the Ventures' hit years, but with a heavier focus on the band's earlier work. If you want to have just one or two Ventures CDs in your collection, you can't go wrong with these two. The Tridex Greatest Hits CD is a special case because, although all of the songs are standard Ventures hits, the versions on this CD were recorded in 1980 and are very different from the originals. Consider these tracks alternate versions of the Ventures' greatest hits. Overall, it's a nice listening experience.
Before beginning its series of 2-on-1 CDs, See for Miles Records issued two collections of Ventures EP (Extended Play) recordings. These EP records were issued primarily in Europe, where it was felt (by Liberty Records) that the albums wouldn't be big sellers. The EP Collection (1990 SFM SEECD292) includes 24 songs issued on EPs in the U.K., while The EP Collection, Volume 2 (1992 SFM SEECD363) includes 26 songs issued on EPs in France. The booklet covers of both collections include small reproductions of the EPs from which the songs were selected and, in SFM fashion, Gerald Woodages liner notes are detailed and very informative. These two CDs contain many popular Ventures tunes that are not normally found on "best of" compilations. For budget-minded fans, I recommend adding these two CDs to the two "best of" collections recommended above.
Okay, do you want to have at least one "live" album for your collection? Well, look for Live in Japan '65 (1995 EMI 328202). According to the liner notes, this collection was originally released as a Japanese LP called All About the Ventures. This is one Ventures CD that I play repeatedly. The guys are at their peak here: the pace is fast, the line-up of songs is excellent, and Mel Taylor's drumming is at it's most frenetic! Just listen to him on Wipe Out and especially on the almost 10-minute, encore version of Caravan.
Another great collection is Surfing (1995 GNP Crescendo 2246), not to be confused with the One Way reissue of the original LP of the same name. GNP's Surfing contains all of the songs from the original LP (although in different playing order), but also includes several tunes never previously released in the U.S. plus four live cuts from the Ventures' 1993 Japanese tour.
I've also come across several Ventures oddities. The Compact Ventures (1987 Garland GR2003) starts out with Stars on Guitars, a 4 1/2-minute medley of nine of the band's greatest hits set to a disco beat, and moves on to some interesting versions of such classic rock and roll vocal hits as Runaway, Johnny Angel, Hey Paula, and Save the Last Dance for Me. One of the most interesting cuts in this collection is the theme from Goldfinger set to a reggae beat, which is quite appropriate when you consider that Ian Fleming created the James Bond character at his home on Jamaica!
Two other rare CDs, The Ventures Greatest Hits (1988 Point 2642072), and The Ventures Gold (1993 Gold 017476), come from the Netherlands and are unusual because of the band's sound. The songs include a mix of Ventures classics, like Walk, Dont't Run, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and Hawaii Five-0, plus some never-before-heard cuts like the themes of five of the Sean Connery/James Bond films and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. However, all of the songs, including the Ventures classics, are in completely new arrangements, with orchestration and a guitar sound that had me wondering if these were authentic Ventures recordings or Ventures imitators. Based on information from Mike Kuhn, President of the Ventures USA Fan Club, these two CDs might actually be compilations of songs recorded and previously released on albums by Mel Taylor and the Dynamics during the 1970s. If anyone has any other information on these two CDs, please email me at email@example.com. These CDs are different enough that I'd really like to learn the full story behind them.
That brings us to the two most recent (as of 1996) Ventures compilations. Tele-Ventures: The Ventures Perform the Great TV Themes (1996 EMI 537382) contains 25 TV themes "a la Ventures," ranging from Blue Star (the "Medic" theme) to Nadia's Theme (the theme from "The Young and the Restless"). Most of the tunes were previously released on various U.S. LPs. There are some good songs among them; but overall, I was a bit disappointed with this collection. That disappointment isn't with the quality of the Ventures' playing, but with the songs themselves. With a few exceptions, these TV themes just weren't great songs to begin with, and unfortunately not even the Ventures' guitar magic could do too much for them. Still, for the collectors out there, you won't want to pass up this off-beat collection.
And finally, there's The Ventures Super Deluxe (1996 Liberty/Toshiba TOCP-50109). This is basically another compilation of Ventures hits that includes such standards as Walk, Don't Run, Walk, Don't Run '64, and Hawaii Five-0. However, it does also contain several tracks from the late 60s to early 70s that I haven't seen in other compilations. These include Catfish Mud Dance from the album Swamp Rock, Mission Imposible and Classical Gas from the album More Golden Greats, and Top of the World and Yesterday Once More from the album The Ventures Play the Carpenters. Overall, not a bad collection.
In Concert Videos
I got my first Ventures video -- The Ventures: Japan Tour '93 (1994 Toshiba-EMI TOVW-3180) -- in late 1997, and I can tell you that for the true Ventures fan, watching this video on a big screen set with stereo sound is almost a religious experience! With short interviews at the beginning, intermission time, and the end, this is almost 2 full hours of ripping Ventures music. They begin with The Cruel Sea, the same opener as on the Live in Japan '65 CD, and move on to an excellent selection of new (in 1993) and classic material. Watching the close up shots of the guitar finger work is a revelation of the guys' true talent -- they make it look so easy! (If only it was that easy for me!) The closing number, again like the Live in Japan '65 CD, is an expanded, encore version of Caravan that features an awesome Mel Taylor on drums and on Bob Bogle's bass guitar! The Japanese audience, as always, is very polite, keeping absolutely quiet during the songs and clapping appreciatively after each number. But the looks of pure delight on their faces, when first Gerry McGee and later Mel Taylor (with an electronic drum pad strapped around his waist) go down into the audience, say a lot about their admiration for the Ventures and why the band returns there every year! If you want just one Ventures "in concert" video, I highly recommend this one. Be warned though, the price at CD Now (listed in the Ventures Resources page) was $80.
Two other Ventures videos that I've recently gotten copies of are Live in Japan 1990 (1990 Toshiba-EMI TOVW-3065) and In Concert '94 (1994 Toshiba TOVW-3213). The 1990 video is just under 1 hour in length, and includes some of the same songs as the 1993 video discussed above, plus several Japanese pops tunes and the Stars on Guitar medley. The 1994 video is the shortest, at just over a 1/2 hour in length. It includes four basic units: a medley with Bob Bogle on lead, a medley with Don Wilson on lead, a set of 7 songs with Gerry McGee on acoustic guitar, and the Star on Guitars medley. Although this video is disappointingly short, I found the different songs (versus the 1990 and 1993 videos) to be a welcomed change of pace. However, the imported price for these two shorter videos is only a few dollars less than the 2-hour 1993 video. Therefore, you might want to consider your options before placing an order with any of the online music sources.
Two vintage videos that are worth hunting down are Beloved Invaders (19?? Toshiba-EMI TOVE-3085) and 30 Years of Rock and Roll (1989 Toshiba-EMI WV048-3020) (sometimes called "Super Sessions"). Beloved Invaders is in black & wide, letter-box (wide screen) format, and opens with what appears to be a travelogue of Japan. Because the spoken sound track is in Japanese, it's a bit hard to know what's being shown in this portion of the video, but pretty soon our heroes make an appearance and we follow them from city to city, seeing the sights and playing concert gigs at each stop. The music appears to be taken from the same concert as the Live in Japan '65 CD, and the concert footage of the classic '60s-era Ventures is just great. 30 Years of Rock and Roll was actually filmed in 1985 and features Nokie Edwards on lead guitar. The tape is interspersed with comments by several well-known musicians (such as Peter Frampton, Jeff Baxter/Steely Dan, Robert Kreiger/The Doors, Elliot Easton/The Cars, and Max Weinberg/Sprinstein's E Street Band) about The Ventures' influence on their careers and The Ventures playing some of their greatest hits with the guest musicians. The music is great and the interviews lend credence to the campaign to get The Ventures into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Beloved Invaders video is out of print and hard to come by, but the 30 Years of Rock and Roll (Super Sessions) video is available directly from The Ventures' official web site at: www.theventures.com.
The latest Ventures video was released during the Summer of 1998 -- Wild Again Concert '97 (1998 Toshibe-EMI TOVW-3279) -- and it's another winner. In addition to some of the Ventures' regular standards, this concert, filmed near the end of their 1997 Japan tour, includes several tracks from The Ventures' recent Wild Again and Wild Again II CDs. These include Wham, Calhoun Surf, Bombora, and Hurricane. Also included are several older songs that don't usually get live play, including Surf Rider, Maria Elena, and Jamablaya. The drumming features Leon Taylor, and he's up to the task of filling in his father Mel's considerable "shoes." All that said, however, this video may be a bit of a disappointment to those of you who already have the Wild Again Concert '97 CD, because the video leaves out several other tracks from the Wild Again CDs in favor of standards that seem to be repeated "ad infinitum" on Japanese compilations and in concert videos. But, all in all, this is another great video that you shouldn't pass up.
For a sampling of screen shots from some of these videos, check out the Ventures Photo Album.
Check out the great, detailed reviews of Rock and Roll Forever and Go with the Ventures by Al Rearick, and of The Fabulous Ventures, In Space, On Stage, A Go-Go, The Christmas Album, Walk Don't Run, Vol. 2 by Tony Meloche. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to add your reviews of Ventures recordings to the "guest reviews" section.
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1996-2013 Arnold E.
van Beverhoudt, Jr.